Huge expectations from ‘Good Food’: Tarun Rai

17 Oct,2011

Tarun Rai has been the CEO since 2008 of the Worldwide Media group which, during his tenure, has seen several new launches and titles. The most recent in the long list of magazines is BBC Good Food which is to be launched on October 21. In a conversation with MxM India’s Akash Raha and Shruti Pushkarna, Mr Rai, who took over as AIM President from Mr Pradeep Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director, Cybermedia, talks about the Engagement Study, Good Food, Zinio platform and the future of magazines in India.

 

[youtube width=”350″ height=”250″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKPL01uKuDA[/youtube]

Q: You are launching BBC Good Food in India. What are your expectations from the magazine?

I just got to hear that the magazine is ready; it’s bound, ready for dispatch. We are launching BBC Good Food on Good Food Day, October 21, which we are celebrating and we are encouraging people to try something new on the day. We have huge expectations from Good Food. India is changing, food habits are changing. People are experimenting with food both in their kitchen as well as when it comes to eating out in restaurants. We believe that the time is right for such a magazine. There are no precedents; there are no international food magazines in the country. We are going into uncharted territory and we are beating a new path. There are dangers but as I said, somebody has to do it and we believe that the potential is huge. And the response we’ve got from advertisers for the magazine is excellent and you’ll see it in the number of ad pages we’ve got in the first issue.

 

Tarun Rai on Indian magazines becoming successful international brands
[youtube width=”350″ height=”250″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gdT17SBAtk[/youtube]

Q: Several international brands are licensed to India. When do you see an Indian title becoming a successful international brand?

As you know Femina and Filmfare are heritage brands for us and they are doing fantastically well. Femina already is present in Sri Lanka. Filmfare we’ve licensed last year to UAE and we’re hoping that we will take it to many countries; there is already interest because Bollywood today is international. The Indian diaspora still wants to connect with Bollywood and I think very soon you’ll see Filmfare in many other countries. The other advantage is, thanks to what people say the ‘digital issue’ but I see it always as an opportunity, we are already on the Zinio platform with Filmfare for the past month; and the response has been fantastic. Almost 60 percent of our total sales of all the magazines that we’ve put on Zinio have been for Filmfare because this is the demand which is coming from the international markets and now suddenly it has become very easy to subscribe to Filmfare just at the click of a button. So I think there are going to be huge opportunities on some of the brands like Filmfare and Femina.

Q: What do you feel at being appointed the President of the Association of Indian Magazines? What does this responsibility mean to you?

It’s an honour… I have been a part of AIM for four years now, pretty much as soon as I joined the industry. For me it has been a fantastic experience. I come from advertising and I had no idea about the magazine business. Thanks to my membership of AIM, very quickly I was co-opted to the magazine industry. I have learnt a lot from my peers in AIM and I owe a lot to them. Mr Pradeep Gupta, the outgoing President, has had a terrific run in the last two years and as I take over from him I hope to continue the good job that AIM has done over the last two years. We are a small organization but I think we have learnt a lot to collaborate and make sure that we do things that are beneficial to the entire industry. Right now we are too small. We are just 3 percent of the total ad spends. We deserve more, but just by saying that we deserve more we are not going to get it. So we have to do things to convince the advertisers about the strength of our media. That is the reason we instituted the engagement survey and we are going to take it to its right conclusion by having a proper campaign around it and material which will convince the advertisers. That’s just one of the things. Generally speaking, the magazine industry can do with a higher profile.  So my attempt will be to raise the profile of the magazine industry by doing activities. One of the things it will do is to bring more talent to our business. The way our industry is growing we need a lot of people very fast. We need different kinds of people; with this digital opportunity that has come up we need different and varied kinds of young people to come to our business. By raising the profile of the industry we will also attract new talent to the business. That is going to be one of my important priorities.”

 

Q: Do you think the Engagement Study that AIM has come out with will solve the measurement woes of the industry? Moreover, do you think that the advertisers will accept it as a robust currency?

You never know until you try, and this is our attempt. Now it’s up to us to convince them. One piece of research is not going to do it. The good news is that the media buyers and the advertisers themselves are trying to understand media better. Ambika Srivastava spoke about the touch point study, the brand experience points, about how magazines score very highly when it comes to influence. So the conversation has already started. We want to push that conversation along where the judgment on one media is not only dependent on the numbers but also dependent on the quality of numbers, on the quality of engagement. And therefore the engagement survey is just the first step; it is not going to persuade people overnight but we don’t know whether we’ll be able to persuade people till we make our first step. So this is our first initiative to do that.

Q: What are the take-aways from the India edition of the World Magazine Congress, moreover, on the 360-degree opportunity theme?

It is called the 360-degree opportunity, not challenge, because I am of the firm opinion (and the board of FIPP was of the firm opinion) that we should look at it as an opportunity rather than as a threat. I just think it’s a fabulous place to trade ideas, to get to know what people in the developed market are doing, what people are doing in the South East Asian market which is still coming up. It’s new territory for us. Organization structures are being experimented with; we had this whole thing about how do you manage content along with so many platforms, do you have a core editorial team…? Business models are being experimented with. So to me it’s still a time of flux. Everyone agrees it’s an opportunity which we cannot ignore; do we have the right answers yet, maybe we don’t but this is a forum where you can learn, you can share, you can discuss and hopefully going forward we will arrive at some solutions which will work for different magazines.

 

Q: What according to you is the future of magazines in India?

I think the potential for magazines in India is huge. I always say that magazines, specially the lifestyle and special interest magazines, in India are a sunrise sector. So if it’s a sunrise sector, we are only 3 percent, the only way is up. We are too small to go any lower than that, the only way for us is up and I am very bullish about magazines in India.

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